Cell Phone Use By Pedestrians Rife With Dangers, According To New Study

We have all heard about the risks of texting behind the wheel, but walkers who are glued to their mobile devices may also pose a risk. According to a new study, talking on a cellphone or texting while walking can have a drastic impact on pedestrian safety.

Cellphone Users Found To Be Imprecise Walkers

In the study from Stony Brook University, 33 men and women in their 20s, all of them familiar with cellphone use and texting, were shown a target on the floor approximately 25 feet away. They were then blindfolded, and instructed to walk to the target at a comfortable pace. Researchers measured the participants' position after stopping and the amount of time it took to close the distance. Each participant was measured three times.

One week later, the participants were asked to repeat the exercise, only with a twist: instead of being blindfolded, their field of vision was limited to include just a cellphone. A control group completed the same walking task without using the phone; another did the exercise while chatting; and, the final group attempted to reach the mark while texting.

The official conclusion was that "gait velocity" was reduced and "navigational errors" increased among walkers using a cellphone. In other words, pedestrians who are using a cellphone tend to slow down and wander off course.

Not surprisingly, texting was more distracting than talking: texting pedestrians slowed 33 percent from their normal rate, while those who were talking displayed only a 16 percent reduction in speed. Texting also interfered heavily with the participants' ability to walk accurately to the mark, with texters demonstrating a 61 percent increase in lateral deviation (movement to the sides) and traveling an extra 13 percent beyond their normal stopping point.

The study's authors say that their research should absolutely not be interpreted as a call for a ban on cellphone use while walking. Instead, they want to bring attention to a potential safety issue, highlighting the need for further research and keeping everyone on their guard against pedestrian injuries.

What Does The Study Mean For Car-Pedestrian Accidents?

The research has important implications in terms of pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents: a pedestrian using a cellphone may be more likely to veer off course, fail to stop and look before stepping into a busy intersection, or walk too slowly to clear traffic when crossing a street. Sometimes, this means injury for the pedestrian when he or she collides with a vehicle or some fixed object; in other instances, drivers who swerve to avoid a pedestrian can get hurt in a resulting crash.

In certain areas (like crosswalks) drivers have a responsibility to yield to pedestrians. Even if a walker was using a cellphone when a car-pedestrian accident occurred, the driver may still bear at least partial fault for any resulting injuries.

If you have been injured in any manner of car-pedestrian accident, you may be entitled to compensation from an at-fault party. Contact a personal injury lawyer today to explore you options.